Frome Festival 2011 was officially launched on Thursday night at Rook Lane Chapel, with a chance to enjoy Muriel Lavender performing with her usual panache, the evocative hippy vibe of Morales Watts, and much chatting about the week ahead. Here's Rosie, showing the posters for Lullabies of Broadmoor to theatre-pub landlord Martin Earley and Katy Duke before we set off on a late-night fly-posting expedition.
Saturday morning sees the double invasion from gnomes intent on fishing in Cheap Street's famous leat, and poets declaiming from a Witness Box to random passers-by, while shops and cafés are hosting Writers-in-residence competing to produce a story in a day. Afternoon events include garden tours, art trails, and the delightful Summer Fair in Victoria Park, all blending timewise into the World Food Feast in the market square.
Frome Street Bandits led us into a fabulous evening of free music, and Festival Creative Director Martin Dimery welcomed the Mayor, decked in formal chain, to address to the happy hords congregated in the late evening sunshine. Don't get the impression our lovely mayor always cavorts in public cross-dressed, by the way - his street theatre group SATCO were excessively bearded and in full climbing kit earlier in the day, struggling to ascend Catherine Hill despite avalanches.
Sunday is Writers' and Publishers' day, offering talks, workshops, and one-to-ones with an eye on commercial markets. It's also the day when the Frome Short Story Competition results are revealed, organised by Alison Clink and this year judged by Emma Darwin and Jonathon Lee.
Jonathan, whose book immediately scooped reviewers' accolades and award nominations, feels short stories get a hard time, disagreeing with JG Ballard who suggested they represent "the loose change in the treasury of fiction... an over-valued currency that often turns out to be counterfeit." Far from being easier than novels to write, a good short story needs greater skill in order to create a universe in miniature. The winning story, a Belfast teenager's experience of life in a riot-torn city, was movingly read by Gail Thornton-Mason.
Emma Darwin was back at the library in the afternoon, along with fellow novelist Debby Holt, script-writer Matt Graham, and performance poet Rosemary Dun for a writers' Q&A session impeccably hosted by children's author Steve Voake. Questions ranged through planning and editing, grabbing attention, maintaining it through that 'middle dip', and successful pitching, concluding appropriately with the Pros and Cons of being a writer: For Debby: You're never bored - but you're never off duty. Matt suggested 'I have a million stories in my head all the time' in both categories, Rosemary weighed the magic of creating against writer's bum, while Emma finds writing a godlike responsibility - "whether you believe in Him or not, God is a creator."
Fascinating insights, valid advice, and a thoroughly entertaining afternoon.